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Neumann University Takes a Unique Pandemic Reopening Approach

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To allow for a smooth transition, Neumann University created a mitigation approach to safely reopen campus during the pandemic.

COVID doesn’t have a rule book—or a textbook. That in mind, Neumann University created a Campus Reopening Team in the spring of 2021 to help faculty and students navigate learning and living at the school. The 17 people on the team were selected by Neumann president Chris Domes to represent a cross section of expertise at the university. Its twin goals were to contact trace and make sure symptomatic students were OK. “They were calling us every single day,” says Neumann student Jake Loburak, a senior majoring in communications and digital media.

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CRT member Judith Neubauer is an assistant professor at the school and director of its graduate nursing program. She believes the vigilance paid off. “It gave us an opportunity for early intervention,” Neubauer says.

Classes continued, albeit virtually. Internships also moved forward. At Neumann—which has a large health sciences department—they’re a critical part of skill-based learning. Neumann administrators discovered different ways to conduct internships safely. Domes personally reached out to alumni for internship opportunities. The initiative was so successful that it’s become a permanent part of Neumann’s program. “We had some ways of creating opportunities that we wouldn’t have normally had,” Domes says.

For classes, it was a hybrid model. “We ended up with about 50 percent in-person and about 50 percent online,” says Domes.

Neubauer and the rest of the team are planning for a full reopening this year. Neumann’s faculty and student population were already 65 percent vaccinated by the end of the spring semester, and the goal is to have everyone on campus vaccinated by fall. “We offered international and domestic students the ability to get vaccinated if they weren’t already,” Domes says.

There are several COVID-era changes the university plans to keep, including optional SATs and ACTs. Domes will also utilize a new advisory board to help students make business connections outside of Neumann. As for the Campus Response Team, he hopes its expertise won’t be needed again any time soon.

Related: College Students Around the Main Line Adjust to School Amid COVID